Tender and exploding with flavor, this authentic Crockpot Birria recipe is packed with dried chiles and spices for an addictively spicy sauce. Served as birria tacos or in burrito bowls, it’s a perfect easy dinner!
Why You’ll Love This Crockpot Birria Recipe
Beef birria will be your new favorite Mexican dinner for the following reasons:
- Authentic. It tastes just like what you find at street food markets in Mexico. There are no unnecessary ingredients or weird substitutes, just lots and lots of flavor.
- Easy. This recipe lets the crockpot do all the work! While most birria recipes require you to babysit a big pot on the stove top for hours, this slow cooker version does that for you.
- Versatile. Eat it on its own, in Birria Tacos, or as burritos to spice things up throughout the week. It never gets old! We even will add it to scrambled eggs!
- Spicy. Made with 3 kinds of dried chiles, this recipe is perfectly spicy. It’ll add lots of personality to your meal, but you can always tone it down a bit.
- Freezer-friendly. Pop the leftovers into the freezer for a later day when life’s too hectic to get cooking.
Want to cook your meat on the stove? Check out this stovetop birria recipe.
What Is Beef Birria?
Beef birria is a traditional Mexican meat stew simmered in a thickened tomato and chile-based sauce. It’s made with beef, goat, or lamb depending on the region. The sauce is heavily spiced with cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, cloves, oregano, etc.
Once ready, the meat is shredded or chopped and served in bowls. Lots of sauce is ladled on top, so it’s eaten kind of like a soup. Tortillas and bolillos can be dipped into the sauce for a heartier meal. Don’t forget the toppings like onion, radishes, and cilantro.
It’s all about the chiles and spices for this crockpot birria. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for full ingredient amounts.
For the Meat
- Chuck Roast: Check below for alternatives.
- Roma Tomatoes: Feel free to use heirloom tomatoes if you remove most of the seeds.
- Onion: Use white or yellow onion.
- Garlic: Don’t use garlic powder, you want to use fresh garlic for the most flavor.
- Bay Leaves
- Water: Low sodium beef broth is a good swap.
For the Chile Sauce
- Dried Guajillo Chiles: You can find Dried Guajillo Chiles in the Latin section of the grocery store.
- Dried Ancho Chiles: You can find Dried Ancho Chiles in the Latin section of the grocery store.
- Dried Arbol Chiles: Reduce the amount of Dried Arbol Chiles if you’re not a fan of spicy heat.
- Whole Cloves
- Cinnamon Stick
- Mexican Oregano: If you can, use Mexican Oregano for the most authentic flavor. If you can’t find it, you can use regular Oregano in a pinch.
- Whole Cumin: If you do not have whole cumin, you can use ground cumin as well.
- Thyme Leaves: Fresh or dried thyme.
- Whole Peppercorns
- Bay Leaves
- Beef Cooking Water: Reserved from the pot.
- White Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar works too.
- White Onion: Red onion is also great.
- Radishes: You can use fresh radishes or pickled radishes.
- Lime Wedges
What Cut of Meat Is Best For Birria?
Chuck roast is the best cut of meat, because it has a good amount of fat. If you can’t find it, you can also use beef shank, boneless beef short ribs, beef cheeks, or even a good fatty brisket. You want a fatty cut of beef to give your birria good flavor. You shouldn’t have a problem finding any of these cuts in Mexican supermarkets.
How to Make Beef Birria in Your Crock Pot
The slow cooker does most of the work for you, so don’t worry!
- Fill the slow cooker: Add the roast, tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt and bay leaves in the crockpot. Cover with water. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8.
- Prepare the chiles: Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles. Place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them soak.
- Toast the spices: Add the spices to a pan over medium-high heat. Toast them until you can smell the spices. Add the garlic and brown it on all sides. Transfer everything to a blender.
- Blend the sauce: Pour beef broth from the crockpot into the blender. Add the tomatoes. Drain the chiles and add them in. Add the vinegar and salt. Process until smooth.
- Strain it: Pour the sauce through a strainer.
- Shred the meat: Remove the garlic from the crockpot. Discard it. Shred the meat.
- Add the sauce: Pour the sauce into the crockpot and stir it in. Cook for another hour.
- Serve: Ladle into bowls and add your favorite toppings.
Tips for the Best Slow Cooker Birria
Slow cooker birria gets a whole lot easier with the help of a couple tips:
- Use ground spices. If you have the ground version of the following spices, feel free to use them: cinnamon, cumin, peppercorns, cumin.
- Simmer the sauce. If the sauce hasn’t thickened when the meat is ready, you can pour it off and simmer it in a pan over medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Leave the fat. Don’t cut the fat off the meat. Use the cooking grease to fry tortillas for birria tacos or enchiladas.
- Use gloves. Wearing gloves will prevent your hands from becoming tingly from all the chiles you need to stem. It also won’t matter if you rub your eyes after removing the gloves.
- Rub a lime wedge. If you use your bare hands to stem and seed the chiles, rub a lime wedge on your finger tips and nails for 3-4 minutes. Rinse well. This gets rid of any residual chile on your hands.
- Make it less spicy. Reduce the amount of chile de arbol to taste if you want to make this recipe less spicy.
- Sear the beef. I tested this recipe a few different ways, and we did not feel like searing the beef before adding it to the crockpot was worth the extra step. However, if you want to, of course you can sear the beef on all sides over high heat before adding it to the crockpot.
What to Serve with Beef Birria
Aside from all the yummy toppings that go with it, Corn Tortillas, Flour Tortillas, and Mexican Bolillos are great for dipping into this crockpot birria. You can also use the tortillas to make Birria Tacos or burritos with it. For a crunchy bite, feel free to dip Homemade Tortilla Chips into the sauce.
How to Store Leftovers
When the crockpot birria comes down to room temperature, refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To reheat it, microwave it for up to a minute or until warm. You can also heat it in a pan or small pot over medium heat for 6-8 minutes.
Can I Freeze This?
Yes! Once fully cooled, transfer it to a freezer-friendly bag or container in serving-size portions. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge before reheating as usual.
More Mexican Recipes
- Pollo Asado
- Mexican Picadillo
- Salpicon (Mexican Chilled Beef Salad)
- Chili Colorado
- Nopales Asados Tacos
- Instant Pot Cochinita Pibil
- Chilaquiles Rojos
For the Meat
- 4 pounds chuck roast, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 Roma tomatoes
- 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
- 1 garlic head, ends cut off
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 cups water
Red Chile Sauce
- 12 dried guajillo chiles
- 4 dried ancho chiles
- 4 dried arbol chiles
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
- 2 teaspoons whole cumin
- 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, fresh or dried
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 garlic cloves
- 4 cups water from the beef
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons salt, to taste
- White onion, chopped
- Cilantro, chopped
- Radishes, sliced
- Lime wedges
- Place the roast in the slow cooker and add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt and bay leaves, then pour water over the roast. Place the lid on and set on high for 6 hours or low for 8.
- After the meat has been cooking for 4 hours (if cooking on high) to 6 hours (if cooking on low), make the sauce.
- Using gloves and scissors, cut the chiles open and remove the stem and seeds. Place them in a bowl and cover with boiling hot water. Let them soak for 20 minutes. You may need to place a small plate or bowl on them to weigh them down and keep them under the water.
- Place the spices in a pan over medium high heat and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, or until you can begin to smell the spices. Stir often. Pour the spices into a blender.
- Place the garlic in the same pan and brown each side, then pour into the blender.
- Spoon out 2 cups of the beef broth from the crockpot, and the tomatoes, and add to the blender. Drain the chilis and add them to the blender as well, then blend until smooth.
- Add the vinegar, and a teaspoon of salt, and blend for 10 seconds more.
- Pour the chile sauce mixture through a fine mesh strainer and press with a spoon until strained.
- When the meat is tender, remove from the broth and shred. Discard garlic head from crockpot.
- Add the sauce to the slow cooker and stir into the broth. Add the meat back into the slow cooker and continue cooking for another hour.
- Serve with your favorite toppings, as Birria Tacos, in enchiladas, quesadillas or burritos!
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